Reigning World Rallycross Champion Timmy Hansen will have a target on his back this season as he returns to defend his crown in the FIA World Rallycross Championship.
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
The 2019 season was the closest fought season in the history of the world championship with both Timmy and Andreas Bakkerud ending the season on equal points, but with a count-back of wins, Hansen was declared the victor.
Slipstream SA spoke to Timmy Hansen ahead of the 2020 season opener.
In all forms of sport, defending a title always comes with added pressure. So, we asked the reigning champion if he feels any added pressure as he heads into the season with an aim to defend the title(s), and how he aims to turn that added pressure to a positive?
“Well, the pressure is always there as a race driver and I think mainly about myself. I always want to perform and I am here because it's a huge challenge and that is what I love about it, so yes,” he said
“I do aim to turn the pressure into a positive but I wouldn't say it's more pressure. I would rather say I put less pressure on myself now because I have won the world championship already and I have achieved my goal in that way, and it feels like I don't have to do it again, but I definitely want to and I most of all I want to improve as a driver and drive faster than I've done before.”
The 2020 World RX season has been condensed into a ten round calendar, with 3 venues hosting double-headers this season, and no fly away events due to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Whilst there was some downtime for many, it does not mean that racing drivers or any athletes for that matter used the downtime to relax. They often use it as downtime to improve themselves both physically and mentally for the challenges ahead, and this is no different for Timmy Hansen. With a condensed calendar in 2020, it will add enormous pressure on teams and drivers to perform from the get-go.
“This break has been a huge help to prepare myself on the physical and mental side,” Hansen said. “I feel really strong after all the training. I haven't been traveling so training has really been uninterrupted and I've done all the training that I planned to do. So, I feel really strong physically and mentally.”
“I've been able to set aside what happened last year and really find my motivation to perform and to continue to push myself as an athlete, so yeah. I feel great! I feel better than before any other season.”
Timmy will embark on the challenge of retaining his World RX crown in 2020 with heavy hitters returning to the championship, the likes of double World RX champion Johan Kristoffersson and Euro RX champion Robin Larsson in a former EKS RX Audi.
2019 runner-up Andreas Bakkerud will switch to GC Kompetition machinery in a Renault Megane R.S RX Supercar alongside Liam Doran in Monster Energy GCK RX Cartel.
In the pursuit of perfection and improving, teams will refine their cars and update them to solve flaws of previous seasons and this is no different in World Rallycross. At some 2019 events, the Peugeot 208 WRX had the tendency to struggle on loose surfaces and excelled on high grip tracks. This year, the team has made changes to both the engine and to solve the grip issues, as Kevin Hansen revealed in an interview with Andrew Coley (World RX commentator).
“We're not a factory team anymore, and we do have a great car so I don't want to overextend what we're doing, but with that said of course as a team we want to continue to improve and there are several areas in which you can improve: teamwork, me as a driver, set up, performance of the race car, and the engineers have worked hard and have had in many ideas,” Timmy said.
“Together as a team, we had many ideas at the end of last year and we were working on them and hopefully, we have fine-tuned the car even better for 2020.”
The 2019 World Rallycross Championship was a tense affair and went right down to the wire between Andreas Bakkerud and Timmy both vying for top honors. The season finale was won by Niclas Gronholm after Bakkerud and Hansen collided in the tight gravel hairpin in Cape Town. Hansen spun and lost track position crossing the finish line in fourth behind the event winner. That meant the pair were equal on points and a countback would seal the title for Hansen having won four events in 2019.
Timmy Hansen leading his brother and Timo Scheider in Cape Town.
PHOTO CREDIT: Red Bull Content Pool.
Rivalries make sports very interesting for fans, and with old champions returning there is no doubt we’ll see new rivalries form in 2020. So, who does Timmy think will be his biggest rival this season?
“I mean Kristoffersson, of course, he is a two-time world champion and he will be on the grid and in the same machine that he used so on you know, looking at it that way I'm looking forward to race against him and again to really measure myself against him, after all the work we have done and how far we've come as a team,” he said. “But Andreas, you know, we ended on equal points last year, and I know he hasn't been lazy (during off-season) and, Gronholm as well, he was super strong last year and I know they've been working very hard to do you know there are four drivers or three drivers apart from me and Kevin and then.”
“You know, you have to be very humble before these the start of a season. I think is very important to know that your competitors will be strong but mainly focus on your own performance.”
The 28-year-old Swede has also added two eSport titles to his belt during the off-season. He claimed the World RX eSports Series and Race of Champions Virtual titles. We asked him if simulator racing was a good tool to sharpen his racing skills during the off-season.
“I don't know, time has to tell if I improved by doing that or not, you know, motorsport practice and training it's very hard to measure and like when I'm out running or in the gym do I become faster by doing that, you know for like one session doesn't make a difference, but all the sessions combined.”
“I'm sure that it makes a difference and I think it's the same with eSports. I've been racing and I have been keeping sharp so I wouldn't say there's anything particular I've learnt apart from being in that racing zone and mentally it was a big challenge which I could carry some lessons from so yeah, it was it was a good way to spend the break. And fun of course.”
Whilst many countries are still battling the Coronavirus pandemic, and some are still under partial lockdowns. The reigning champion shared a few words with motorsport fans.
“We are all in this together and even if I am a racing driver or you know, a CEO of a large company or an employee of a large company or anybody else in the whole world have an equal part in fighting this, you know, it's all about social distancing and we can do it and I can only encourage people to continue to stay, you know, stay socially distant,” he said.
“I've been staying at home. I've been going to work and really limiting what I'm doing so yeah, I'm not better than anyone. I don't have a bigger responsibility, but we're all equally responsible and yeah, this is something that the world is really doing together never before have I seen the entire world like this acting in the same way for the same goal to save our elderly, you know family mainly as well as everyone else in risk.”
“And motorsport is starting again soon, so you'll be in entertained if you're at home.”
The 2020 FIA World Rallycross Championship season is now just a week away with a double-header at Höljes in Sweden.
Written By: Junaid Samodien